2:00PM Water Cooler 12/19/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51


“Why We Cannot Nominate a Young Person in 2020” [Benjamin Studebaker]. “The vast majority of would-be young Bernies will still be under 35 in 2020 and won’t be legally allowed to run for president. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez isn’t even 30 yet. She’s about as old as Jennifer Aniston was in the middle of her Friends run…. Most of us in the left-wing political space haven’t actually done anything yet. Ocasio-Cortez is young by American political standards but she’s older than the vast majority of young people I know who might one day be interested in running for stuff…. The people in their 40s who support Bernie never received the kind of grassroots support Bernie received when they were younger, and consequently they never had the opportunity to build a resume for the presidency. As a result, the overwhelming majority of Democratic politicians in their 40s and 50s are centrists who came of age politically in the 90s and 00s… They were advanced in the party because the Clinton generation promoted them. They have spent their political lives working with Gore and Kerry and Obama and that’s the discourse they swim in. Corey Booker is 49. Kamala Harris is 54. Beto O’Rourke is 46. Kirsten Gillibrand is 52. Amy Klobuchar is 58. This group has a shared set of political instincts–they are the instincts that helped them build the careers they now enjoy, but they are not instincts we can trust. They have been tutored in triangulation from the time they were political toddlers. From the point of view of the left, the 40-60 group is a lost generation. It’s an entire generation of American politicians who were taught all the wrong things… [I]f we want a left-wing politician, we need to go all the way back to the people who got their start in politics before the Clintons showed up. We need someone who was left-wing even before the Clintons watered that down and changed what it meant for most people. Forget the 90s, we need someone who was too left-wing for the Democratic Party in the 70s. There is only one such person left alive. First name Bernie, last name Sanders.” • This is a neat example of viewing an institutional problem through a generational lens. Who, then, would run a Sanders administration? Probably not a lot of people from Harvard and Yale. People from state schools like UMKC. Lots of adjuncts. Rather like FDR, as Thomas Frank says in one of his talks (which I’m too lazy to find). You’d have to blow up the system of liberal credentialing, the backscratchocracy so-called meritocracy. If you think the liberal reaction to Trump was intense…

“How Come So Many Bernie Bros Are Women and People of Color?”[Katie Halper, Common Dreams (RH)]. (Halper has a fun podcast.) “A recent CNN poll shows that among potential Democratic candidates in Iowa caucuses Senator Bernie Sanders has the highest approval rating from people of color…. But despite evidence like the new CNN poll, in which Sanders had the highest approval among non-white voters, outlets reporting on the survey studiously avoided mentioning that key finding which undermines the media narrative about Sanders’ struggle to appeal to minority voters.” • The post, despite the headline, then pivots to a long and interesting report on the recent Sanders Institute Gathering in Burlington, Vermont.

Oh, Clara:

It certainly is odd that that Sanders is the only one pounding on this:

Sanders doesn’t have any problem with women and/or PoC he can’t solve. He has problems with women and/or POC pundits and gatekeepers, and that may not be soluble, because they have interests and values that are opposed to his; see this important article by Adolph Reed. (I could wish Reed where a slightly punchier polemicist; every time I read that article I look for the catchphrase that would allow me to characterize this subclass of the political class, and I can’t find it. Grr!)

“Beto O’Rourke Removed From ‘No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge’ Following Sludge Report” [Sludge]. “Texas Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke has been removed from a pledge he signed to reject large donations from fossil fuel PACs and executives, following a recent Sludge investigation of federal campaign finance records. Sludge reported on Dec. 10 that the congressman had accepted dozens of contributions of over $200 from oil and gas executives and had not reported refunding them. Oil Change USA, which led a coalition of environmental and democracy organizations to create the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge, attempted to reach O’Rourke’s campaign and congressional office but did not hear back. Nor did Sludge.”

2018 Post Mortem

AOC’s campaign was small donor-based, and she wasn’t offered DCCC money, which would have requried her to pledge to spend four hours a day on the phone servicing large donors. And so:

(Grim’s 8 hours includes 4 hours to service lobbyists.)

New Cold War

“The Mueller delusion” [Matthew Walter, The Week]. “Meanwhile Mueller is doing a good impersonation of a delusional power-crazed middle-school librarian. ‘Did you ever have a conversation with Rob and Pat in this library? Did you use your library voice? Okay, was it on a Tuesday? No, it was actually a Wednesday, and you, sir, are getting detention. Oh, what’s that? You happen to know that Kev and Phil were smoking cigarettes on the loading dock back in the seventh grade? Thank you, thank you so much! No, that’s all right, I can ring their employers.’ If you don’t recognize this as a more or less accurate description of what Mueller has so far publicly accomplished with the considerable resources at his disposal, you are being willfully, blinkeringly partisan. Which is fine. That is the nature of politics.” • Heh.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“The bad economics of PAYGO swamp any strategic gain from adopting it” [Economic Policy Insitute]. “A PAYGO rule means that any tax cut or spending increase passed into law needs to be offset in the same spending cycle with tax increases or spending cuts elsewhere in the budget. Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indicated that the House of Representatives will abide by PAYGO in the next Congress, and this decision has sparked much controversy…. [F]undamentally, it is terrible economics to view federal budget deficits as always and everywhere bad. Making good policy in the future will require that voters be educated on this front. Why not start now?… Why am I taking you on this extended walk down the memory lane of irrational deficit-phobia? Because it had terrible consequences. The recovery from the Great Recession was the slowest in post-World War II history, and the degree of fiscal austerity can entirely explain its slowness.” • Important!

“Imperatives for Democrats” [Harold Meyerson, The American Prospect]. Background: Tammy Baldwin put forth a version of Warren’s proposal for co-determination and Republicans didn’t even attack her for it. “Other than investigating and possibly impeaching Donald Trump, will the rest of the congressional session be given over to intra-party disputes over how far to extend Medicare and how green a New Deal to promote? Or will the Democrats heed the lesson of the non-attack on Baldwin’s co-determination proposal and realize that they can support legislation that begins to shift the balance of power in the economy, and win widespread support in the process? Will they realize they can come together around an agenda that directly benefits America’s workers?” • Lol no.

“Michelle Obama reflects on ‘refreshing’ tradition of sharing candy with George W. Bush” [The Hill]. • Lol no.

Stats Watch

Current Account, Q3 2018: “A steep deepening in the third-quarter trade gap drove the current account deficit” upward [Econoday].

Existing Home Sales, November 2018: “Existing home sales showed some life in November” [Econoday]. “Despite weaknesses the story of November’s report is positive especially given the run of disappointments for housing data especially on the new home side of the market.” And: “The key for the housing – and the overall economy – is new home sales, single family housing starts and overall residential investment. Overall this is a reasonable level for existing home sales, and the recent weakness is no surprise given the increase in mortgage rates” [Calculated Risk].

MBA Mortgage Applications, week of December 14, 2018: “Despite lower interest rates, mortgage activity declined” [Econoday]. “[O]ngoing financial market volatility and economic uncertainty likely dissuaded some potential borrowers.”

Leading Indicator: “Run of positive billings continues at architecture firms” [The American Institute of Architects]. “Architecture firm billings growth expanded in November by a healthy margin… AIA’s Architecture Billings Index (ABI) score for November was 54.7 compared to 50.4 in October. With the strongest billings growth figure since January and continued strength in new project inquiries and design contracts, billings are closing the year on a strong note.” And: “According to the AIA, there is an “approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending” on non-residential construction. This index has been positive for 14 consecutive months, suggesting a further increase in CRE investment in 2019″ [Calculated Risk]. • So, in contrast to Mr. Market’s butterflies, the real economy of trucking and building seems solid, and housing is at least no worse than usual.

Shipping: “November truck tonnage is mixed, reports ATA” [Logistics Management]. “On an annual basis, [seasonally adjusted (SA)] tonnage was up… The ATA’s not seasonally-adjusted (NSA) index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustment and the metric ATA says fleets should benchmark their levels with,” declined. And: “I tend to put heavier weight on the CASS index which this month agreed with the ATA that the growth rate significantly declined year-over-year” [Econintersect].

The Bezzle: “Fraud is rampant in fish supply chains , New York AG finds” [Supply Chain Dive]. “Seafood mislabeling — often referred to as ‘fish fraud’ — is a known and rampant phenomenon…. The incentive at any link in the supply chain is pretty clear. If the customer can’t tell the difference, then a cheaper species can be sold as a more expensive one with little or no recourse.” • So, instead of “lemon market,” we could say “fish market”” More: “One in four unpackaged seafood items is mislabeled in New York state with a strong suggestion of intentional mislabeling, according to a new report for the Office of the New York State Attorney General. Lemon sole, red snapper, grouper and salmon labeled “wild” according to the report are likely to be incorrectly labeled and in some cases, an entirely different — and cheaper — fish.”

The Bezzle: “Elon Musk’s new tunnel ‘a little rough around the edges'” [Associated Press]. “The car jostled significantly during the ride, which was bumpy enough to give one reporter motion sickness while another yelled, ‘Woo!'” • So Elon’s latest self-promoting bad idea has quality assurance problems. I’m shocked. At least there aren’t any submarines.

Transportation: “The Scooter Invasion Is in High Gear” [Industry Week]. “One key segment for electric two-wheelers, especially in large, congested cities and university campuses, is the micromobility market. According to the National Household Travel survey of 2017, about half of the vehicle trips in the country are less than 3 miles. As a result, many commuters are hopping on scooters and e-bikes for these short jaunts, partly for their allure, but also to escape traffic. Lime and Bird—the two leading e-bike and scooter suppliers, respectively, of large cities—are the most prominent players in this segment.”

Transportation: “Boeing lifts India aircraft forecast to 2,300 jets” [FlightGlobal]. “[Boeing raised] the figure from last year’s forecast of 2,100 aircraft, and 2016’s 1,850 aircraft…. For the entire South Asia region, which includes India, Boeing is forecasting a commercial services market valued at $430 billion over the next 20 years.”


“Potential for 100,000-Plus Jobs If We Fix Our Parks” [Pew Charitable Trust (Furzy Mouse)]. “A Pew-commissioned analysis by the Cadmus Group, a consulting company, found that addressing the National Park Service’s $11.6 billion maintenance backlog would create or support nearly 110,000 infrastructure-related jobs. This number, based on fiscal year 2017 NPS data, is a reminder of the powerful economic impact of national parks. California has the most to gain, with the potential for more than 17,000 jobs. Rural states also stand to benefit, with a possible 6,600 jobs in Wyoming. And Virginia, which has a mix of urban and rustic settings, could benefit from 9,600 jobs. If NPS’ deferred maintenance was fully funded, communities could see construction workers repairing roads and trails, preservation experts restoring deteriorating historic sites, and engineers overhauling outdated sewer, water, and electrical systems that can threaten safety and the environment.” • So it’s reasonable to guesstimate that reforestation would create an order of magniture more.

* * *

Children of the corn syrup:

“Costco’s 100 Million Chickens Will Change the Face of Nebraska” [Civil Eats]. “‘Here you have a retailer who will now—from cradle to grave—have complete control of the entire production system,’ says John Hansen, farmer and president of the Nebraska Farmers Union. ‘[Costco will] own the birds, they’ll control all of the particulars of the birds’ genetics, the production. They’ll own the feed mill and they’ll have control of the processing plant. If this model works, what will it mean for the rest of the poultry industry? Will other retailers, like Walmart, be close behind?’… Main Street Project’s approach—which has been implemented in Northfield, Minnesota, and on several Native American reservations, including on Winnebago tribal territory in northeastern Nebraska—works with a group of farmers who raise chickens for meat and eggs in conjunction with growing hazelnuts and other perennial trees and shrubs, cover crops, and small grains that provide additional cash value while acting as feed for the birds.” • Also plenty of local opposition to Costco expressed through the permitting process.

“Neolithic dairy farming at the extreme of agriculture in northern Europe” [Proceedings of the Royal Society B]. “[W]e examine food residues in pottery, testing a hypothesis that Neolithic farming was practiced beyond the 60th parallel north. Our findings, based on diagnostic biomarker lipids and δ13C values of preserved fatty acids, reveal a transition at ca 2500 BC from the exploitation of aquatic organisms to processing of ruminant products, specifically milk, confirming farming was practiced at high latitudes. Combining this with genetic, environmental and archaeological information, we demonstrate the origins of dairying probably accompanied an incoming, genetically distinct, population successfully establishing this new subsistence ‘package’.”

* * *

Cultural change (1):

Cultural change (2):

Louis CK (ick) is persona non grata now, but “If God Came Back” seems a propos.

* * *

For some reason, images of trees started appearing in my Twitter timeline (and I have crippled Twitter’s algos, so perhaps something is happening in my sector of the zeitgeist. All in one day–

The first:

The second:

The third:

And also today: “New York City’s surprising wealth of native trees” [Anthropocene]. “[A] new study [(original)] shows that even the most populous city in the United States contains significant stands of forest dominated by native tree species… [B]ased on stand density measurements from the new study, the researchers estimate that there are 5 million trees in the city’s urban forest stands alone – which cover just 5.4% of the city’s area.” • Based on the new study, the invasive, competition-suppressing, and stinky Tree of Heaven, which accounts for 9% of the urban canopy, accounts for only 1% of the forest canopy.

And Arbor Day was back in April!

Class Warfare

“Beyond Relief” [The Baffler]. “Mutual aid is an organizational theory premised on the principles of cooperation, collectivism, and solidarity. It has been used extensively throughout history by anarchist, socialist, and other emancipatory movements, from trade unions to cooperatives… [M]any grassroots disaster relief networks, from Occupy Sandy to Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, use the slogan ‘Solidarity Not Charity.’… In the last year, Mutual Aid Centers have popped up across the entire island—all in coordination with the original center in Caguas, but all responding to their own unique contexts. There are now at least eight of them, stretching from the far west to Mariana, just inland from the eastern coast of the island, and up into the town of Las Marías, high in the Cordillera Central mountain range…. While all of this community building and popular education is taking place within a void created by a negligent government, it is not happening within a vacuum of power. Certainly the state has abandoned its post when it comes to disaster response and many other essential public services, but it is still very much involved in protecting the interests of the disaster capitalist class—who have a very different idea of what the future of Puerto Rico should look like.”

News of the Wired

“Classical and quantum computers are vying for superiority” [Nature]. “Theoretical physicist Seth Lloyd at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge speaks for many when he says the field is in a period of explosive progress — but that the hype is also getting out of control. ‘The whole quantum-computing field is just going hogwild right now,’ he says. Is a quantum computer even needed? High-profile work by an 18-year-old computer scientist earlier this year suggests not, at least for one specific task. Ewin Tang effectively taught an old computer a new trick — one that was previously thought to need a quantum system.”

“Radical mycology is scaling up. Can it retain its open-source ethos?” [New Food Economy]. “But underlying an informal, playful air [at the fifth biennial Radical Mycology Convergence (RMC)] was a serious conviction in the vast, as-yet-untapped power of fungi to change the world. The modern mycological conversation is vast: Proponents highlight the critical role mycelia play in Earth’s ecosystems; their potential for mitigating pollution, waste and contamination; the vast world of culinary and medicinal mushrooms; the growing field of fungal fabrication; and the eerily intelligent behavior of distributed fungal networks—often referred to as “nature’s internet.” Underscoring these wide-ranging discussions was a common theme: that a deeper understanding of the interrelations among plant, animal, and fungal life is necessary to navigate a fraught future…. as mushrooms become more popular, concerns are also raised about the culture that will emerge around them. Increased study and commercial use of fungi may lead to pharmacitization, as sacred medicines are abstracted into pills, and natural processes industrialized to scale without adequate considerations of the impact on ecologies. Mycophiles’ enthusiasm over a growing profile for fungi is tempered by concerns that it may come at a cost.”

* * *

Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant:

Trees near the house.

* * *

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. flora

    re: Benjamin Studebaker

    “They were advanced in the party because the Clinton generation 3rd-Way political faction promoted them. ”

    Party factions, not age or generation. The neoliberal, 3rd-Way faction has control of the DCCC.

    See for example about factionalism at work in this from Crooks and Liars:

    Progressive Primary Winners Abandoned By The DCCC
    The DCCC is ‘aggressively ignoring progressives’ who won their primaries and moved on to the General. Does that seem like a winning strategy to you?
    n Omaha, a progressive Democrat, Kara Eastman, ran a grassroots campaign on issues that voters wanted to hear about. And she won, despite massive DCCC fingers-on-the-scale help for Ashford. The voters picked her– 20,239 (51.43%) to 19,113 (43.57%). So how did the DCCC respond? They wrote NE-02– their “must win” district– out of their 2018 strategy and refused to back Kara. No institutional money is flowing in her direction. They flat out refused to add her to their Red-to-Blue page.


    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Paul Tsongas and Moonbeam made Bill look like Trotsky in ’92. The rot was widespread before Bill. 1994 made it a Bill Clinton personality cult, but there were pre-existing problems. Those problems were exacerbated as Bill Clinton controlled the DNC and was essentially responsible for candidate promotion and recruitment. Democratic elites love to recruit self funders who can’t be labeled by Republicans. This is the greater problem than an individual because its a party of Beta O’Rourke who doesn’t want to be labeled.

    2. flora

      adding: neoliberal-type liberals and the 3rd-Way(Clinton) faction are attached to the large waves of global money sloshing around the world, not to progressive politics that might hinder all that lucrative sloshing, imo.

      Attachment to lucrative global money flows instead of progressive politics isn’t a function of age or of being part of a particular generation, it’s an individual choice and outlook… at any age.

      1. Watt4Bob

        I consider every invitation to think in terms of age, gender, ethnic background, geographic location etc… to be an effort to divide and conquer.

        We’ve been marinated in this divisive stew for so long that we can hardly speak without the use of labels, all of which actually hinder, rather than enhance our ability to make ourselves understood, or get along, for that matter.

        And that’s the way ‘they’ like it.

    3. drumlin woodchuckles

      No, it does not seem like a winning strategy to me. But then, it is not supposed to be a winning strategy, to me or to anyone else.

      What it seems like to me is a stop-the-wrong-Democrats-from-winning strategy. The reason it seems like that is because that is what it is.

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      This is all true, and Studebaker is also a bit careless with “we.”

      That said, I gave and give him a pass on this because it’s impossible, if one wishes to get anything done, to consider class in the abstract without adding a time dimension. So I don’t put his article in the same category as “Why Boomers Are To Blame For ___” or “Millennials Have Ruined ___”. It’s clear he’s talking about Democrat factions, and it’s also clear that this factions operate in history, at particular places and times, as did the Third Way.

      If we mix ascriptive identities and real properties together as adjectives in the abstract, a single adjective is almost always wrong. Snowclone glory:

      1) “G are x” where G is generation: Always wrong (one adjective)

      2) “B + W are x” where B is black and W is women: Almost always wrong (two adjectives)

      3) “W1 + W2 + C are x” where W1 is white, W2 is women, and C is class: Less likely to be wrong (three adjectives, one of which is C).

      4) “B + M + C + L + G are x” where B is black, M is male, C is class, L is location, and G = generation: Even less likely to be wrong (five adjectives, one of which is C).

      Abstracting the intersection of ascriptive identities and real properties to I, you can see that most liberal symbol manipulators are working at degree #1 (“I is x”) or degree 2 (“I1 + 12 is x”). It follows that most liberal discourse is wrong. It also follows that most conservative discourse is wrong, although they manipulate a different set of adjectives. Only the left insists that you can never be right (although you can be wrong) unless you include C, and focuses on expanding the terms of the equation, not limiting them.

      NOTE Maybe I’m wrong and the terms are multiplicative not additive. The nice thing about multiplication is that if you “B * M * C * L * G are x” and one of the terms is zero, all the terms get zeroed out and the claim is false. Possibly we have readers who really know how to work with logic like this and they can comment. For now, I think these are good bullshit detectors for the discourse.

      1. Steve H.

        > Only the left insists that you can never be right (although you can be wrong) unless you include C

        Check me on this, but can the validity of a statement be based on existence of a particular content? “Only God is good” has a similar form.

        The big answer is “universal rights of each individual.” When each I = I am an Individual Identifying (= ascribing) who I am, you get no n>1, maximum freedom but no cohesion. There’s a who/whom thing going on there.

        “Universal liberalism focuses on individuality and shared humanity and seeks to achieve a society in which every individual is equally able to access every right, freedom, and opportunity that our shared societies provide. Identity politics focuses explicitly on group identity and seeks political empowerment by promoting that group as a monolithic, marginalized entity distinct from and polarized against another group depicted as a monolithic privileged entity.”

        We’ve seen a Who excluding allies when #metoo insisted W2 be part of being right. The Kavanaugh hearings brought the boil up, both in tying veracity to gender, and to rejecting the (about) 1/7 of men who’d been abused. So a Who used multiplicative ops on a Whom desiring to be a Who.

        > This group has a shared set of political instincts–they are the instincts that helped them build the careers they now enjoy, but they are not instincts we can trust.

        The need for Universal is because of the truths which coincide with ascriptive identitites. Location/zipcode may be a hard, objective data point, but correlates with ascripted identities like race, due to selection processes (Big Sort).

        ‘Generation’ has truth in a couple of ways, the local aspect (cohorts: Kavanaugh’s buddies have more dirt on him than their parents do), and the general (similar ages not only have similar experiences, but similar hormonal stages, which affect behavior). Page and Nowak said in “Unifying Evolutionary Dynamics” that “the fitness of an individual depends on the frequency of other strategies in the population. Let xi denote the frequency of strategy i, its fitness, fi(x), is a function of the distribution of the population given by the vector x = (xi, …, xn).”

        In other words, to make the equation work, they had to include the time dimension in terms of the conditions within the next evolution occurs. Studebaker is asserting the adaptations of that cohort in their developmental environment are not capable of a good outcome. He fails to account for individuals, who may have been suppressed by that environment but are well-suited for newer conditions. Every Individual is their own i.

  2. NotTimothyGeithner

    In Chicago, for instance, we’ve gotten a foretaste of the new breed of foundation-hatched black communitarian voices; one of them, a smooth Harvard lawyer with impeccable do-good credentials and vacuous-to-repressive neoliberal politics, has won a state senate seat on a base mainly in the liberal foundation and development worlds. His fundamentally bootstrap line was softened by a patina of the rhetoric of authentic community, talk about meeting in kitchens, small-scale solutions to social problems, and the predictable elevation of process over program—the point where identity politics converges with old-fashioned middle-class reform in favoring form over substance.

    I suspect that his ilk is the wave of the future in U.S. black politics, as in Haiti and wherever else the International Monetary Fund has sway. -Adolph Reed in 1996


      1. wilroncanada

        It is not only a great quote from 22 years ago, but an accurate forecast of a future president’s real character. Thanks for the original quote NotTimothyGeithner. I was going to mention it as a comment on a previous piece where others were commenting about when they realized, or woke up, to the reality of whom they had campaigned for and elected. I would also mention his being a protege of Penny Pritzger.
        I knew about him then, and I”m Canadian. We’ve had them in Canada too, a father and son team named Trudeau, for one (pair).

  3. John k

    Do you want to set it on fire?
    Oil seeps were used for fire couple thousand years ago. Useful on cold nights. If overall population hadn’t changed there would be no global warming.
    And if, thru accident or design, pop declined to what it was then, we could say problem solved.

  4. ambrit

    “Trees near the house.”
    Uh, that wouldn’t perhaps be Birnam Wood, would it?
    (Why does that picture remind me of the Algernon Blackwood story, “The Willows?”)

  5. Summer

    Re:Michelle Obama reflects on ‘refreshing’ tradition of sharing candy with George W. Bush”

    That and Barack Obama with the Flint drinking water really shows who they are.

    1. Carolinian

      Polite monsters? In fairness the role of politician–and frau–tends to attract superficial and personable people who tell the voters what they want to hear. Perhaps Hillary crashed because she really wasn’t all that likeable–at least in her public persona.

      I’d say we are entitled to dislike Michelle only to the extent that she is so vastly overestimated. Mike Whitney, who writes a daily links roundup, thinks she is running for president, now or in the not too distant future.

      1. ambrit

        It does look like she is getting a press build up for some fell purpose or other.
        Too many laudatory exercises in ‘Journalistic Hagiography’ to be “organic.” It might not be Presidential in nature. Perhaps to prepare the way for an Ambassadoressship?

    2. ewmayer

      Friend fwded this to me yesterday:

      Dinesh D’Souza claims Michelle Obama’s college thesis was ‘illiterate’ | Daily Mail Online

      I like the way the British tabloids make this dust-up sound rather like a royal scandal. Not a special fan of the Indian-Ann-Coulter-esque D’Souza, but I view this little sh*tfight as a useful antidote to the nausea induced by the Michelle O autohagiography tour. And trademark zingers by the late Christopher Hitchens are a bonus!

      1. Carolinian

        From your linked article–Michelle speaking to a group in England.

        ‘It never goes away, that you’re actually listening to me,’ she said. ‘It never goes away, that feeling that you shouldn’t take me that seriously. What do I know?’

        ‘I share that with you because we all have doubts in our abilities, about our power and what power is.’

        Such are the travails of simple barefoot powerful folk. Her husband, though, seemed to have put aside such introspection when he said

        “Turns out I’m really good at killing people,” Obama said quietly, “Didn’t know that was gonna be a strong suit of mine.”


        She probably slipped him a mint too.

  6. Fiery Hunt

    I would take the architect billing survey with a HUGE handful of salt. Single family residential build/remodel business has all but collapsed in the SF Bay Area for anything but the 1%. Not even fire re-builds…people are taking what money insurance gave them and they’re running away. Multi-units (read: luxury apartments) are still going but the coming squeeze will hit them hard next Spring/Tax day.

      1. Arizona Slim

        Here in Tucson, I’m seeing very few homes being sold, but I sure am seeing quite a few new listings.

        I’m also seeing quite the deluge of “I want to buy your house!” postcards. Flippers trying to get one last hurrah before the market really goes down.

        1. amfortas the hippie

          on iphone so forgive.
          i just drove from texas hill country to dfw for eldests state champ futball game. known as the big country… and big it is… empty. aside from 2 largeish cities( maybe 40k pop), all i saw was decay… like an accidental rewilding. even the pawnshops were boarded up. this region has been declining for a while… but not at the rate or scale i saw today. many half completed projects, eroding away( from great fincrash, by looks if it).

          but get within 50 miles of dfw and theres construction everywhere.
          its stark

          1. megamike

            Driver through southern IL its all a wasteland
            Enormous amount of decay.
            “You know why we pay high taxes, pay more for gas, pay more for cigs in IL? Its to pay for Chicago.”

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Single family residential build/remodel business has all but collapsed in the SF Bay Area for anything but the 1%

      But single family housing has been in the toilet for years. It’s an index. If in the aggregate “new project inquiries and design contracts” are up — say for CRE, especially warehouses — then the index is going to be up, regardless of what housing is doing.

  7. taunger

    Regarding human extinction – “I confess, I don’t find this subject nearly as interesting as May does, in part because—since I am not a philosopher—I tend to be concerned with questions that have actual consequences. ”

    I was with the author right up until there. It is necessary to refrain from such ridiculous statements to hold my attention. Moreover, there are serious, immediate answers to his question, “If I conclude that the world would be better off without humanity, what am I supposed to do?” Well, if I believe the world is better off without humans, I sure am unlikely to try to stop our extinction. Our author believes that we should try, Maybe not dismissing entire opposing arguments as silly would garner better results.

  8. In the Land of Farmers

    On Neolithic dairy farming at the extreme of agriculture in northern Europe”:

    Yes. This is me. That Lactose Perseverance gene (LCT) they speak of, specifically the SNP rs4988235, only 8% of European Caucasians carry it. I have it. It is also associated with increased obesity if we drink milk.

    These farmers invaded everywhere but some of our genes still manages to make it for the 10,000 years after they did. The FADS1 gene is another marker of this heritage.

    I know a lot of you will call me crazy (eek privacy!) but I had me genes run twice through 23andme. It saved my life. I would only recommend people do it if they have a history of illness that seems to be passed down through generations as I have.

    There are new DNA testing companies coming out with whole genome assays that will offer none of the sharing that you need to do with 23andme and will be around $200.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Neanderthals were apparently more robust than modern humans.

      I wonder if, by mixing with them, Europeans and Asians (with Olympian exceptions) can’t jump as high, nor run as fast, as their ancestors could when they first came out of Africa.

      It’s the “Blame it on Neanderthals’ hypothesis.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        I remember many years ago seeing a National Geographic article about Neanderthals and among other things it had a photograph of a Neanderthal little-pinkie finger tip bone compared to a Modern Man big toe tip bone. The Neanderthal little pinkie last (tip) joint bone was thicker ( and probably stronger) than the Modern Man big toe last joint (tip) bone. All this was to make a point about just how physically strong and durable Neanderthal was.

        More recently I read somewhere that human anatomists studying the visible traces of injuries on Neanderthal skeletons strongly believed that some of those injuries just had to be consistent with Neanderthals close-quarters-grappling with prey animals and beating the prey to death with their hands or other hand methods. ( Probably deer and things, not Mammoths.)

        And that Neanderthal’s strong face bones and huge brow ridges may have been for male sexual combat for female favors . . . . that two Neandermales would punch eachother in the head till one gave up. Faint brow ridge never won fair lady.

      2. In the Land of Farmers

        I am not talking about Neanderthals, they were not Neolithic people, they were not even Homo Sapiens.

  9. McWatt

    Glad to hear someone decry the horrors of the Tree of Heaven. I had a neighbor with one of the towns oldest

    and most beautiful Oak Trees. This, she cut down. Then she ignored her yard for years which was overrun by

    Trees of Heaven. She then cut down them all except for those that run along our mutual property line. Now I

    have a back yard and gutters filled with leaves and branches from these weed trees, with none of the beauty

    of her old ancient oak.

  10. Hameloose Cannon

    KERP!* Not to defend the warped pirate running a mutinous Sears through bankruptcy, but Bernie, you were in Congress when BACPA passed. Section 503c1, Key Employee Retention Plan or KERP. Special retention packages designed to induce key executive personnel to stay on for a Ch 11 reorg, made when 1) essential to the retention of an individual because the individual has a bona fide job offer from another business at an equal or greater salary; 2) essential to the survival of the business; and, 3) do not exceed certain levels indexed to prior year non-management pay executive retention bonuses. It’s baked in the law, so it’s an all-skate at the roller rink, for more than a decade, rolling. And it will happen again in every bk reorg. *KERP’s probably written just to raise blood pressures. Send some lefties to the cardiologist. – If someone were to punch a few holes in items one, two, and three in an op-ed, Sears would have to re-file a plan. Bernard?

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      At the time of writing that law, did Bernie or anyone else expect and predict that the Masters of Control Fraud would define their bust-out selves as being Key Employees?

      The only way to correct this now . . . would be to repeal the law. There is no way to “legislate” the difference between a Key Employee and a Control Fraudster in Key Employee disguise. Just repeal the law.

  11. MC

    Re: Set it on fire
    The book Fossil Capital is really helpful in understanding why fossil fuels became preferable to other sources of power (water, animals) to pour industrialization.
    TLDR: labor displine

  12. chuck roast

    On corn syrup and meat…
    A friend of mine cooked a ham. He was gonna’ bring it over for a big cook-up dinner. Anyway, things intervened, and we didn’t have the dinner. So, before going off to Manhattan for the holidays he gave me the (quite big) remnants of the ham.
    I haven’t eaten ham for many a year, but I remember what it tasted like. This ham is tasteless. Now all I can think about is factory farms, and this crappy ham prolly’ came from one. Or maybe my geezer taste buds are shot and I should just stick with doughnuts and beer.

  13. Synoia

    Here you have a retailer who will now—from cradle to grave—have complete control of the entire production system


    Here you have a retailer who will now—from egg to table—have complete control of the entire production system

  14. Hana M

    The article about Elon Musk’s tunnel might have benefited from a little history. Try this excellent book for the story of the New York and Boston undergrounds with lots of good information on how transportation evolved in the US and Europe in the 19th and early 20th Cs :https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17934384-the-race-underground

    It’s also educational for those who think those beloved public-private partnerships are a new invention.

    As for the Elon quotes does any one else here think is sounds a bit like Trump–at least a Trump that’s kinda sorta got a California religion?

    “I really think this is incredibly profound,” he said. “Hopefully that is coming across.”

    He reiterated the simplicity of all his ideas.“No Nobel Prize is needed here,” he said. “It’s very simple.”

    And he’s not doing it for the money, he said, adding that it’s for the greater good. In his 16 years in Los Angeles, he said, traffic went from “the seventh level of hell to the eighth level of hell.”

    “Traffic is soul-destroying. It’s like acid on the soul,” he said to party guests who snacked on marshmallow treats and hot dogs and hoped for a turn in the tunnel.

  15. Tom Doak

    I agree totally with the first story in line that a Sanders administration would need to rely on a lot of outside-the-Beltway people to help run his administration.

    The question is whether this would be allowed to happen. When Jimmy Carter was elected, the Democrat hierarchy stonewalled him on potential appointments, and made it clear they wouldn’t support his nominees for key Cabinet positions unless he nominated more “mainstream” [i.e. captured] candidates. And that was 1976 … you know the corporate Democrat machine would make it twice as hard today.

    If the Democrats somehow miraculously take back the Senate in 2020, and Chuck Schumer is still the Senate majority leader, good luck getting him to spearhead Medicare for All. In fact, that might well be why Pelosi and Schumer haven’t given up their posts yet.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I think Sanders would likley experience Trump’s Drain the Swamp experience.

      And since Sanders (Investigate Russia!) didn’t do much for Trump, that future battle, at the federal level, in DC, would be fought as a never-seen before, new kind of battle.

      1. emorej a hong kong

        Imagine how much more persuasive accusations of “Russian Mole” would have been against a President Sanders if not already deployed against Trump, and not already weakened by inconvenient information promoted by Right-wing (alongside true Left-wing) media.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      Didn’t Jimmy bring in Brzezinski? Maybe Jimmy’s picks were worth opposing.Jimmy didn’t have to go after the trucking unions, but he did.

    3. WJ

      I think that it’s actually worse. The corporate media, party donors, and political elite fear having to cover Bernie Sanders in any sustained way at all–and opposing him as hypothetical president would require this–as he’s very very good at getting his basic message across, which is a message that happens to strongly appeal to lots and lots and lots of Americans across lines of party and ethnicity and sex and race. A media/political elite that was forced to “oppose” a hypothetical President Sanders in this way would have already lost to him. He is unlike Carter–and unlike Trump–in that the more coverage he receives the broader his support becomes. So the goal is one of preventing at any cost his ever attaining the nomination in the first place. They *will* do this at the national convention, and have already begun to prepare us for it with their jabber about a new and expanded criteria the superdelegates will consider in picking the nominee (after the first ballot). Just wait and see.

      1. Kurt Sperry

        Bernie has to do only one thing, as simple as it will be difficult to do, in order to overcome all the dirty tricks the DNC will have up its sleeve to fix the nomination against him: get and, then stay ahead in polling. If he can do that (and he has a very good chance to in my opinion) it will break the Democratic Party to stop him. In fact, that might be a more useful outcome longer term than even a Sanders nomination-Presidency.

        1. Briny

          It would be most promising that what happened to the Whigs happens now to the Democratic party. There isn’t anyone else besides Bernie that I would bother to vote for and politically we are pretty much diametrically different. Trust is what makes the difference.

        2. drumlin woodchuckles

          A Democratic Party which will not or can not nominate Sanders as its Presidential nominee . . . deserves to be exterminated.

          The Clintogangrenous tissue left over from the explosion must be rigidly excluded from any political part which might emerge from the wreckage.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > have already begun to prepare us for it with their jabber about a new and expanded criteria the superdelegates will consider

        Also by moving the California primary earlier, to benefit Kamala Harris. Although at least in 2016, the Sanders operation in California was quite strong. Does anybody know how they are doing today? (The horrid Buffy Wicks won, BTW).

    4. John k

      Bonds think recession coming. Stocks worried bonds are right.
      If so, and if Bernie then gets nom he would win landslide.
      In that case he would have great power.
      And he is politically much smarter than either carter or trump. He gets his picks.
      Passing m4a and social program depends on coattails and how well he uses the bully pulpit. Best to move fast.
      Also should announce early Jan.

  16. Polar Donkey

    One interesting thing about Memphis is the urban forest. It covers almost the whole city. If you drove the interstate beltway 240 around the city, you wouldn’t think it was a city of 650,000. All you see is trees. Because oof the Mississippi river, trees in Memphis grow on average twice as fast as normal. I have 2 massive 65 year old oak trees. One of the major industries of pre-ww2 Memphis was furniture making because of the proximity to so many fast growing hardwood trees. Of course, every time there is a bad storm, power goes out for thousands of people.

  17. Wukchumni

    “Potential for 100,000-Plus Jobs If We Fix Our Parks” [Pew Charitable Trust (Furzy Mouse)]. “A Pew-commissioned analysis by the Cadmus Group, a consulting company, found that addressing the National Park Service’s $11.6 billion maintenance backlog would create or support nearly 110,000 infrastructure-related jobs.
    Unless they came up with some sort of facilities similar to the CCC, there’d be nowhere to put those employees, as pretty much every rental in the entry town to the National Park here is a vacation rental now.

    Getting those sort of dormitories built within the confines of the NP would be quite challenging, as you’d need ample parking space for their cars, and there isn’t much around that’s doable.

    Still, it’d be nice to treat our national treasures to a facelift as far as creature comforts are concerned, many NP’s really let themselves go on account of lack of dough.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Should trees, animals, etc in the national parks have a say in how many humans should be allowed to visit, and and what infrastructure to accommodate them?

      I remember years ago visiting a redwood park in Marin County, north of San Francisco, and we had to walk on a deck so that we didn’t disturb (simple vibrations of the ground) the gentle giants.

      We could all go as Mahatma’s and by the sheer number of us, it would be bad for the host. It is currently said that we didn’t wipe out the Neanderthals. We simply swamped their gene pool with interbreeding – think wave after waver of modern human arriving from Africa…another victory by overwhelming numerical superiority.

  18. ewmayer

    o Re. PAYGO: “The recovery from the Great Recession was the slowest in post-World War II history, and the degree of fiscal austerity can entirely explain its slowness.” — I disagree, in the sense that it seems to me that lack of debt forgiveness to bubble-mortgage victims (that is, *individual* victims, not TBTF-bank victims, who were victims of their own predations and were resoundingly bailed out) also played a large role. All those failed and bank-rigged mortgage modification initiatives, which helped precious few people, left many millions underwater, and even in effect allowed the banks and capitalist elite looters to steal millions of homes, leaving their theft victims worse off than before: still owing all that money, and now with ruined credit scores and homeless to boot.

    o “Costco’s 100 Million Chickens Will Change the Face of Nebraska” [Civil Eats] — Given that Costco appears to actually pay and treat its workers pretty decently and seems to want to raise chickens in at least semi-humane and eco-friendly fashion (relatively speaking), I say better than Wal-Mart, Amazon or some Chinese-owned pork producer. But would be interested to hear from some botts-on-the-ground locals about the details-as-they-see-it-affecting-them of the initiative.

    1. cm

      wrt Costco — agreed. I raise my own chickens for meat, and have no issue w/ what Costco is doing.

      I am a very happy Costco customer. I saw a cashier who had been working there since 1983. What other American company can boast of 25+ year employees?

  19. Synoia

    about half of the vehicle trips in the country are less than 3 miles. As a result, many commuters are hopping on scooters and e-bikes for these short jaunts, partly for their allure, but also to escape traffic. Lime and Bird—the two leading e-bike and scooter suppliers,

    And the time saved over Shank’s pony is what? 10 minutes?

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      Hey, it’s too far to walk to the gym!

      A coworker recently got an electric scooter for the 1/4 mile walk up from the parking garage. Now he’s bothered by recently putting on obvious weight. I’m wondering if he’ll get there himself or maybe I’ll have to give him a shake to nudge the bb into the hole.

  20. VietnamVet

    Triangulation has been a dark secret since Jimmy Carter. It is the cover for the corporation monopolization of the West that led to today’s extreme inequality. It made the political class wealthy. It is the root cause of people’s rising anger across the West. Why Yellow Vests are destroying corporate toll booths and speed cameras in provincial France is not rocket science. They extort money from drivers who cannot afford it. The globalist corporate movement to make the rich wealthier is the core of the Resistance to Donald Trump. Michael Flynn is back in limbo for the temerity to suggesting that he was the subject of an FBI perjury trap. Donald Trump just lighted a fire under Lindsay Graham and the neo-cons. He is withdrawing Americans troops from Syria for Christmas. The Dow fell 1.49% again today. Things are hitting the fan.

  21. integer

    The disinformation campaign behind the allegations of Russian “disinformation”. WSWS

    The new “proof” of Russian subversion is then used to demand even more sweeping measures to censor the internet, in the name of securing “our democracy.” With each successive wave of stories, foreign “disinformation” is more directly identified with opposition to social inequality, police brutality and the capitalist system…

    Ryan Fox, the co-founder of New Knowledge and a co-author of the report, worked for the National Security Agency (NSA) for 15 years. New Knowledge’s website notes that “prior to his civilian roles as a Counter Terrorism Fellow and NSA Representative European SIGINT partners, he served under US Joint Special Operation Command (JSOC) as a CNO Analyst for the US Army.” His partner, the company’s CEO, is Jonathon Morgan, who has published for the state-connected Brookings Institution and worked as a special advisor to the State Department…

    The second report, “The IRA and Political Polarization in the United States,” published under the imprimatur of Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project, in collaboration with the social media analysis firm Graphika, was likewise authored by figures with deep connections to the state and the military. Graphika staffer Camille Francois, a co-author, served as chief technical officer to the French prime minister and worked at the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

  22. dcblogger

    McResistance is very upset that Trump is getting us out of Syria. It is the first good thing he has done as far as I am concerned.

  23. Oregoncharles

    Copying forward my response to the same article on Links:
    “Why We Cannot Nominate a Young Person in 2020” (Answer: because they’re too young, or have no political record.)

    Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

    This is not an unqualified endorsement – the Oregon Green Party will probably run someone against him in 2020, because we do have some issues with him (eg, Palestine, and some recent unanimous Senate votes). Also, for technical reasons we almost have to.

    But he’s the closest thing to Bernie who is technically qualified, even if he doesn’t call himself a socialist.

    To my mind, the biggest objection to Bernie running is that it might kill him, whereas he could have many years in the Senate. But in reality, people like Merkley are running for VP at this point: no name recognition.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      One would hope that Sanders would pace himself physically and mentally, and that his supporters at all levels would do a lot of campaigning FOR him.

    2. cm

      Meh. If we’re restricting ourselves to Oregonians, I prefer Wyden…. Wyden fought the NSA, whereas Merkley has done what exactly? Opposing Trump isn’t exactly a profile in courage….

      Why not Gabbard?

      Seems like Insley is really pushing for Prez, and, like Merkley, I’m completely unimpressed.

  24. a different chris

    I could wish Reed where a slightly punchier polemicist

    I understand where you’re coming from, but, nah, let Adolph be Adolph. He lectures us, the punchlines are up to the receptors to develop and bring to the world. He’s just a calm, focused, writer. I see him at a lectern, taking his time and unspooling the story at the necessary pace.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > the punchlines are up to the receptors to develop

      Normally I’d agree, but I’m pretty good at developing punchlines, and I’m scratching my head over this one.

  25. Oregoncharles

    I really have no problem with PAYGO, as long as it stipulates that all cuts come out of the military, and in particular out of purchasing and brass. Enlisted are workers and shouldn’t have to take a pay cut.

  26. Oregoncharles

    “Oh, Clara:” top choice among these black women who are also political professionals:

    [Kamala] Harris, 71.1%

    Who is, quite by chance, a black woman who is a political professional. This is the most egregious sort of tribalism.

  27. emorej a hong kong


    — is all they’ve got, which they barely try to deny. The new egregiousness of Clara is to pass off the tribe of politics professionals as the bigger and more sympathetic tribe of Black Women.

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